Motherhood is dif­fi­cult, but it’s so re­ward­ing. It’s the most ful­fill­ing job there is!”

I’ve re­flected long and bit­terly over this blithe, thought­less state­ment when I’ve been locked in an end­less cy­cle of dirty di­a­pers, dirty dishes, dirty laun­dry, dirty un­washed hair, and kids that fight dirty. I’ve also re­con­sid­ered it when my chil­dren fi­nally set­tled a dis­pute through talk­ing (like I’ve been teach­ing them to for their whole lives!), rather than en­gag­ing in a pitched bat­tle of Darwinism. I’ve ac­cepted its truth when my 3-year-old fi­nally went to sleep with­out some sort of tantrum at bed­time (after 1 year of hope­less­ness on our part).

Here’s the thing. Motherhood is ful­fill­ing even­tu­ally, if you’ve done it right. Whoof! That’s an over­whelm­ing thought. You need to model good be­hav­ior and emo­tional con­trol for your kids every day, and have the hu­mil­ity to apol­o­gize and ask for­give­ness when you blow it. Now do that for 5 years straight, some­times through enor­mous amounts of stress, peer pres­sure, and ex­haus­tion, and fi­nally your chil­dren should not need your in­ter­ven­tion per­haps twice a day (out of 400 needed times). Now do that for an­other 5 years, and watch your chil­dren’s needs start evolv­ing overnight into more com­pli­cated and stress­ful prob­lems. Rinse and re­peat.

My goal with this is to re­mind those in the later stages en­vy­ing (or laugh­ing at!) the mother with simpler prob­lems” of how you hated hear­ing how ful­filled you should be feel­ing. All you re­mem­ber are the sweet sleepy snug­gles, the daily wild­flower of­fer­ings, the ex­cite­ment and joy and thrills at new ex­pe­ri­ences. The young, new moth­ers are en­joy­ing those too, but time and age have not yet dimmed the dif­fi­cul­ties of early child-rais­ing.

I also in­tend this as a mes­sage of hope for those see­ing the years stretch in an end­less dark tun­nel of whin­ing and messes–buckle down and hang in there, it does get bet­ter. By 2 years old the baby will be feed­ing them­selves much more cleanly; by 3 they can dress them­selves and ac­tu­ally be help­ful with sim­ple chores (cleanup, fold­ing laun­dry, some bak­ing); by 4 they’re learn­ing some emo­tional con­trol.

Motherhood (all par­ent­ing, re­ally) is ei­ther a les­son in pa­tience, or a slow de­scent into mad­ness if you refuse to learn. Galatians 5 tells us to not be weary in well do­ing; it promises that in due sea­son we shall reap, if we faint not. But we want much more im­me­di­ate re­sults—days, weeks, months at most. Waiting years is hard, es­pe­cially when you don’t feel you have the con­trol needed in your own life.

Step back now, and see how God is chang­ing not just your chil­dren over the years; He’s chang­ing you. Through daily de­ci­sions to stay calm in or­der to teach your chil­dren, you’re also be­ing taught to grow as a per­son. Be pa­tient. Patient dur­ing the 1,000th inane ques­tion; pa­tient dur­ing the con­stant in­ter­rup­tions; pa­tient when the chil­dren climb on you yet again though you’re all touched out; and pa­tient when a grand­moth­erly stranger smiles fondly at your scream­ing child in the store and says, Enjoy this stage; they grow up so fast.”